Stewart Title of California Inc., San Diego, has reported a $750,000 settlement with the California Department of Insurance related to DOI allegations that the company paid kickbacks to real estate agents in exchange for business referrals.The company said it also agreed to the entry of a cease-and-desist order, but that the settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing. The settlement includes a fine of $590,000, plus $160,000 to cover costs associated with the investigation of the allegedly unlawful activities in several Southern California counties from September 1999 through November 2001. "Stewart strives to follow all applicable federal and state laws regarding business practices on marketing activities," said Mike Skalka, general counsel of Stewart Title Guaranty Co., the title insurance underwriter for Stewart Title of California. "Unfortunately, the California Department of Insurance has not clearly defined what constitutes a violation." DOI Commissioner John Garamendi declared: "Let this latest fine be a warning: we will find these companies who continue to pay kickbacks, and I will do everything in my power to see that they are punished for their actions."

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